I went out into my garage. When I opened the door, a wave of heat hit my face as a dry Las Vegas afternoon baked my work space to a toasty 130 degrees. My wife had the dryer going, its shoom-shoom, thump-thump talked to me from the left corner. I also detected the aroma of wet towels and a softener sheet.
In the middle of the floor, my large word machine stood silent, waiting. Since I manufacture my own words, I had to spring for my own equipment, at great expense, I might add. However, I’ve been busy with my real job, so I hadn’t had time to make any words for a while. As a result, my machine, painted a light-blue, became covered with sawdust (since I’m also a woodworker). The sawdust mingled with regular dust and oil leaking from several bad gaskets. Underneath, a small puddle of hydraulic fluid had spread on the floor, congealed with a mix of more sawdust and to my chagrin, metal shavings.
I wiped the sweat off my brow, weaved around my band saw and our treadmill, and reached for the circuit breaker on the wall. The status light on the control panel glowed red, showing that power reached the relay panel. So far, so good.
I approached the machine, flipped the power button and pulled down on the engagement lever. The machine hummed to life. Gears ground, pistons activated, cylinders compressed. The floor shook, sawdust fell from the rafters, the lights dimmed. With a faint rumble, the machine spit out a word.
Guess I need to tweak the controls a bit.
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His legs too weak to walk, he looked toward the window through clouded eyes. He searched for the round glow that had shown him so much over the years, once he’d grown tall enough to see it. Now there was only a dark pane of glass reflecting the small, blinking red and green lights of machines. But as breath came ever lighter, and his eyes closed softly toward sleep he remembered …
He had been a little tyke, a mop-head of thick, black curls, cherubic chubby face, and a grin that would melt the coldest of hearts, when his mother lifted him in her arms and told him to look at the moon.
“I can’t see it. Where?” he responded with the slight pout of a full bottom lip.
“Right up there, over the top of that house. See, between the trees?”
He nodded, though he didn’t see anything but the unforgiving, straight line of the roof glowing in the shadows of dusk, and thought, I’m too short. But it didn’t bother him. After all, there were bugs to watch and toys to play with; a million things to do.
He’d been a small boy, exuberant and laughing, running with his friends when a neighbor girl stopped short in a game of Tag. Her head tilted back, jaw dropped in awe, she asked if he saw the moon.
“Who cares about the stupid moon?” He tapped her arm and shouted “You’re it” in loud, happy words, as he ran. Life was too full to think about whether he could see the moon or not. There were games to play, frogs to catch, cowboy shows and cartoons to watch, and fresh baked cookies to eat.
During a football game, he sat in the stands and a young woman seated next to him nudged his side. She jutted her chin to the sky above the scoreboard and asked him if he could see the moon.
His awkward, lanky frame sat up a bit taller, the mop of curly hair bouncing, and he gave a quick glance in the general direction. His long, dark eyelashes created halos and starbursts from the banks of large powerful lights washing the green field in a blaze of white. “No, I don’t see it.”
“It’s beautiful. It’s worth looking for,” she said.
“Well, I don’t see it,” he replied in a disinterested tone. There were too many other things to do; school dances, exams, getting a driver’s license, watching his older brother, the quarterback, win the game.
A well-muscled arm, bent at the elbow, and the arm of a girl wrapped through the crook of it, they strolled through the meadow as a night-bird’s serenade went unheard. Stardust blinded him, or was it her beauty that kept him from the sight she pointed to on the horizon? He sensed his hormones rage; he could see the brightness in her eyes, the contrast of tanned, silken skin against a pale dress. “I don’t see it. All I see is you.”
And the girl smiled at him.
His legs were strong as they carried his young, able body across the quadrant in confident strides, on a day when he paused to talk to a college friend. His buddy stopped in mid-sentence, stared skyward, and asked if he saw the huge, orange globe that hung in the darkened sky, partially obliterated by a bank of stray clouds. He didn’t look up. There was no time to gawk at a shrouded orb; there was only time for quick conversations, classes, and studies.
He lay on the cold, frozen desert ground, wind and rockets screaming past his ears. His frightened eyes darted from darkened shadow to darkened shadow, and his well-conditioned body quaked. The men next to him, rifles pointed above their heads, asked if he could see the moon. Too frightened to look up, he had many other things to worry about just then; bullets to dodge, bombs to evade, a safe return to home.
Escorting her from the restaurant one evening, his eyes became riveted on her when she had gently grasped his hand, stopped, and stared up into the night sky. She smiled and said, “Look. Do you see it?”
There came a stirring in his chest, a fullness of heart that obscured everything else. He tilted his chin upward to match the angle of her face and saw it. Huge and low, so bright it lit his whole world. He could see it all with such clarity; the house, career, and a long contented life with family.
On an early summer evening, while sitting on a park bench, he watched them play on the swings and jungle-gyms, chasing each other in a game of Tag. It was that time of night when the orbiting disk hung full, close and pale, barely visible. But he saw it; happy faces of discovery and eyes wide in wonder, the beautiful gowns and handsome tuxedos of dances, the blush of first love. And he wondered if they could see it. He wanted to ask them but knew somewhere deep inside they probably couldn’t and thought, they’re too short just yet.
Standing on the sidelines, much as he had done years before in similar circumstances, he yelled out loud words of encouragement through cupped hands. This time the lights of the stadium didn’t obstruct his view, and no one needed to nudge him to ask. Bright and full of promise, it floated in the inky darkness like a beacon. “Can you see it?” he called out to his son. The boy didn’t answer as he slid into home plate, but he signaled thumbs up.
His chest swelled with pride as he walked her down the aisle; the light of his smile no match for the sparkle in her eyes that never wavered from the young man. A man who could see the glistening disk, and beamed with promise; one who would take her away but give so much in return. Stark midnight rays penetrated the windows and threw a rainbow of color through the chapel, painting her white dress and everything that surrounded her with patterns of happiness; reflections a life rich with laughter and love. “Can you see it?” he asked his daughter. She didn’t speak, but she turned to him and nodded.
One by one as they came along, he hoisted his grandchildren to his shoulders and pointing to the brightly shining sphere he told them to always keep it in sight. When they asked why, he replied, “It will illuminate the possibilities of wonder that lie ahead and remind you of the sweetness of the past.”
He sat on the back porch as the sun began to set in a cool September sky. Small, sporadic twinkles of light spaced out across the deep blue expanse, streaked with trails of thin, light grey clouds. His gnarled, veined hands entwined with her smaller ones, he looked to the sky and it was there. Perhaps not quite as bright as it once had been, but still there; its light shone enough for him to see the fun yet to be found. “Do you see it?” he asked.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she replied.
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